Canva illustration of Shared Leadership by Priyanka Jethani.
Shared Leadership... What is it? Why is it important? What are the benefits? What are the challenges? Is it real? Is it a myth? Where is it being implemented? Can we see it?
These questions and more have led me to believe in this theory and observe its benefits in the education sector and in my professional learning journey.
One of my aspirations is to become an administrator. Not just any administrator, actually, but one who can make a difference and inspire others to become leaders. A quote by Tom Peters has always resonated with me: “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”
Working towards my professional learning goal made me realize that I have many strengths and weaknesses; spotlighting those and learning from them is crucial. I have also recognized that I am not an expert in every little thing; acknowledging and growing into that awareness has helped me move slowly towards my aspirations.
As I studied and read and learned more about the concept of shared leadership, I reached out to administrators with whom I either work, have worked, have met through social media, or whose courses I have attended, asking them for their perspectives and insight. To all who agreed, I asked them the same three questions.
- What is your belief with regards to shared leadership?
- How do you build trust on your team?
- How has shared leadership impacted your development as a leader?
Each administrator had his/her own unique perspectives, but their answers were mostly headed in the same direction. I am thrilled to have learned from the best. Here are the key takeaways:
- Trust is incredibly important.
- Every individual has strengths and weaknesses.
- Every member on your team should have clear & shared goals.
- Be authentic! Be honest!
- Surround yourself with people who can bring out the best in you.
- Empower members in your community to grow and learn.
For Jon Nordmeyer, WIDA International Program Director, he states that "there's a difference between trust and safety. If there is psychological safety in an organization, then it creates a space where people can experience the inevitable discomfort that is part of learning and growing as an organization."
When Daniel McKee, Head of School at The Metropolitan School of Panama, talks about leadership, he says, “The only leadership is shared leadership.” He is a firm believer in making others creators, movers, and shakers. “Be Real! Apologize for your shortcomings. Be honest! Listen to people.” He feels this is the most effective way to bring out the best in his team.
The world needs a new kind of leadership, according to Nancy Squicciarini, Head of Community Relations at The International School of Luxembourg. She discussed The ABCDs of Leading with Trust by Ken Blanchard. In order for leaders to be successful in promoting trust in their teams, they need to follow the ABCDs of Trust. Are they Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable? Do they know who their team members are as people and as professionals, what they are able or unable to do, what they have in common? She alluded to the analogy of the puzzle; a team is made up of different people, all of them with different strengths and weaknesses, but when the pieces are put together the perfect team is formed! Nancy points out that your best team is made up of everything you are not. She sums up by saying that everything we do should impact student learning.
When Audrey Menard, Director at The International School of Panama, talks about trust, she points out that, “Trust takes time to build during a pandemic, but it takes a mere second to lose it.” She referred to the orchestra analogy where leaders are like conductors. They work behind the scenes and transmit their ideas and vision which is then carried out by the orchestra or the principals, team leaders, and department chairs. What a beautiful way of moving people forward!
Shawn Colleary, a lifelong educator and leader, expresses that, “Everyone is a leader at some point.” He discloses that he’s a leader because of shared leadership, although he has so much more to learn. "Everyone has an opportunity to grow" is one of his mantras, and he’s a firm believer that when you surround yourself with people who can bring out the best in you, you will grow!
These interviews made me reflect, helping me to realize my potential as a team leader. Along my journey in shared leadership, I am thrilled that my team knows that in order to have an awesome year we need to trust each other. Building those relationships through a virtual screen is tough. But learning about one another’s likes and dislikes, and knowing each other as colleagues and friends we can count on makes such a huge difference. Instead of the icebreakers or get-to-know-each-other activities, I have invented “Priyanka’s Flair,” where we laugh, cry, play, and start off each meeting with the gift of making each and every one shine.
Priyanka Jethani is a MS EAL Specialist/G8 Team Leader/WIDA K-12 Coordinator at The International School of Panama and has more than 23 years experience in education.
Blanchard, Ken. Trust Inc.: Strategies for Building Your Company's Most Valuable Asset, by Barbara Brooks Kimmel, Next Decade, Inc., 2014. The ABCDs of Leading with Trust is an excerpt from a chapter of this book.